Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Senate Moving Forward On Employee Free Choice Act

The Senate is preparing to take up the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) this week. EFCA creates an easier path for workers to receive union representation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is speaking this afternoon at an Employee Free Choice Rally in support of legislation.

Here is an excerpt from the Senator's remarks as prepared:

[T]oday when I introduce the Employee Free Choice Act, get ready for a fight. Every single Senator ought to support this bill. It ought to be a no-brainer. This bill renews the commitment made to our parents and grandparents 70 years ago, when President Roosevelt delivered them a New Deal.
Last year, the top three hedge funds earned $4.4 billion in profits, and the ex-CEO of Exxon got a $400 million golden parachute. Today, hourly wages are down while the number of uninsured is up. Today, household income is down, while the average CEO makes 411 times more than the average worker. Today – for far too many Americans – that New Deal has become a raw deal. It’s time to give working families a square deal. A square deal that honors workers and their families by giving them a real chance for a better life.

You know what the Employee Free Choice Act will mean: higher wages. Better health insurance. Safer working conditions. And by the way, we all know that employees who receive a fair standard of living are more productive. This is a win-win for employers and employees alike.

Yesterday Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Health Education, Labor & Penisions (HELP) Comittee, released the following statement in support of the EFCA:

Now that the House has passed the Employee Free Choice Act with bipartisan support, I’m pleased that the Senate is moving forward on this important piece of legislation. We’ve finally raised the minimum wage but we still have a long way to go to restore the economic security that has been lost during the Bush years. Working people aren't getting their fair share of our economic growth. Their hard work is producing skyrocketing corporate profits – not higher paychecks, better benefits, or better lives for their families. The best way to see that employees get their fair share is to give them a stronger voice.

The HELP Committee also provided a fact sheet on how the Act will help restore middle class security. The fact sheet included the following points on how the freedom to choose a union is vital to restoring the American Dream, especially for the most vulnerable Americans:

Unions help American workers get their fair share – union wages are almost 30% higher than non-union wages. Unions are also a cure for rising inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers.

Union cashiers earn 46% more than non-union cashiers.
Union food preparation workers earn nearly 50% more than non-union workers.
Union maids and housekeepers earn 31% more than their non-union counterparts.
The freedom to join a union is a women’s issue and a civil rights issue. Union women earn 31 percent more than women workers who don’t have a union. African American union members earn 36 percent more, and Latino workers earn 46 percent more.
Union workers are almost twice as likely to have employer-sponsored health benefits and a pension at work. They are more than four times more likely to have a secure, defined-benefit pension plan than non-union workers.
Protecting the freedom to choose a union benefits all Americans, whether or not they have a union at work. In industries and occupations where many workplaces are unionized, non-union employers will frequently meet union standards or otherwise improve compensation. A high school graduate in a non-union workplace whose industry is 25 percent unionized gets paid 5 percent more than similar workers in less unionized industries.

The Republicans will filibuster this legislation unless the American people stand up and demand its passage. I was one of those that felt that Unions were no longer needed. I was very wrong. You only need to look at the statistics listed above to realize that companies left alone will do what is best for the bottom line. They will do this at the expense of its workers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally on target! While the Employee Free Choice Act is finally under debate in the Senate, it amazes me the lies that continue to be told about the bill by corporate opponents. In a post last week on Firedog Lake, the AFL-CIO's Tula Connell shot down a lot of them. For example:

--The Act actually keeps the "secret-ballot" election process and adds the new majority sign-up process alongside of it.

--Workers get to decide which of the two methods to use. Most people don't know a form of majority sign-up exists today but is rarely used because right now employers get to decide the election process. Because workers get to decide the election process, they choose the one most favorable to them, the so-called "secret ballot".

--The "secret-ballot" method is neither free, nor fair, nor uncoerced. Employers control every aspect of the process, including timing and when and where supporters can organize support for the union. Employers also have almost unfettered opportunities to meet with workers individually and groups and try to scare them out of joining the union. And the Employee Free Choice Act won't change most of that.

Industrial and anti-union interest groups oppose the Employee Free Choice Act for one reason and one reason alone: money. They don't want to spend it to offer workers humane, compassionate wages and working conditions. So what's more important to the America you want to live in? One where human misery is less important than corporate profits, or one where middle-class workers (the great majority of Americans, mind you) have the guaranteed freedom to join together to bargain--just bargain--for a better life for them and their families?

If the answer isn't clear to those who oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, I think that's a pretty sad state of domestic affairs. That's not the country I believe in. I believe we're capable of far more love and kindness among each other.